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ULSF

_______
Association of
UNIVERSITY LEADERS
FOR A
SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ)


for Colleges and Universities

The Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) is designed to assist you in assessing


the extent to which your college or university is sustainable in its teaching, research,
operations and outreach. Sustainability implies that the major activities on your
campus are ecologically sound, socially just, economically viable and humane, and that
they will continue to be so for future generations. Academic institutions vary
considerably in how they approach sustainability: some concentrate on minimizing their
ecological impact through changes in operations; others emphasize sustainability in the
curriculum.
This survey of sustainability at your college or university asks you to give impressions of
your institutions accomplishments on seven critical dimensions of higher education:
1. Curriculum; 2. Research and Scholarship; 3. Operations ; 4. Faculty and Staff
Development and Rewards ; 5. Outreach and Service; 6. Student Opportunities;
7. Institutional Mission, Structure and Planning. The SAQ is designed to stimulate
discussion and further assessment by campus representatives who are knowledgeable
about and responsible for the activities mentioned in each section. It is intended to be
part of a group exercise.
If you wish to guide the process yourself, we suggest the following: 1. Assemble 10-15
representatives from critical campus constituencies, including students, faculty, staff, and
administration; 2. Review the purpose and objectives of the exercise, the nature of
sustainability in higher education, etc.; 3. Take about 30 minutes for each person to fill
out the questionnaire individually or for small groups to work on specified sections; 4.
Facilitate a discussion in which the whole group reviews the questionnaire section by

2001 ULSF

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 2

section and gathers impressions; 5. Brainstorm possible next steps to strengthening


sustainability on your campus. Note: The exercise could take 2-3 hours or more, and
may be best carried out over two sessions.
Directions: Please read through the definitions of sustainability (p.3) and all the questions
prior to completing the questionnaire. This will give you a sense of how we understand
sustainability. Then answer each question to the best of your ability. Remember that
this questionnaire is seeking your impressions on each dimension, so you need not have
detailed information on all courses offered, transportation and recycling programs, etc., in
order to complete it. If you lack enough information for a reliable impression, please
indicate that you dont know the answer to that question.
It is important to recognize that all institutions will score low. Very few, if any,
institutions embody sustainability on all these dimensions. Sustainability is not a major
focus of the academic disciplines or the wider economy in which higher education
functions. Thus it is difficult for any college or university to be very advanced in
implementing sustainability.
We would prefer that the person(s) initiating this exercise be in contact with a ULSF
staff member prior to their first meeting. We invite those who use the SAQ
independent of ULSF consultants to let us know how participants responded by
reporting briefly on reactions to and outcomes of the exercise. This is helpful for
our ongoing research and assessment work. Note: Since the questions are primarily
qualitative and impressionistic, we cannot use the responses to rate or compare
institutions.

Thank you.

This questionnaire was developed as part of ULSFs Sustainability in Higher Education Indicators
Project from February 1998 through June 1999. The SAQ has been continually updated since then. We
are grateful for the advice of numerous experts in the field who were part of an informal Advisory Group
for the duration of the project and gave constructive feedback on the design and content of the SAQ. For
a list of the Advisory Group, go to <www.ulsf.org/programs_saq_advgroup.htm>. The SAQ can be
downloaded from the web at <www.ulsf.org/programs_saq.html>.

ULSF 2100 L St., NW Washington, DC 20037 USA


Phone: 202-778-6133 Fax: 202-778-6138 Email: info@ulsf.org Website: www.ulsf.org
A program of the Center for Respect of Life and Environment

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 3

Definitions of sustainability:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
- Brundtland Commission (United Nations), 1987

Historically, the term sustainable arose among those with environmental concerns, and
most of the literature and assessment instruments reflect this emphasis. However, it is
increasingly recognized that sustainability cannot be achieved without addressing social
justice issues. There can be no sustainable communities and institutions without social
justice. So too is humane consideration toward the whole community of life an essential part
of true sustainability. An academic institution committed to sustainability should help
students understand the roots of todays injustices and motivate them to seek justice and
humaneness in full integration with understanding the roots of environmental degradation
and modeling environmentally sustainable practices.
- John B. Cobb Jr., Sustainability and the Liberal Arts conference, 1998

Sustainability is an ideal end-state. Like democracy, it is a lofty goal whose perfect


realization eludes us. For this reason, there will always be competing definitions of
sustainability. We know these definitions will always include the well-being of people,
nature, our economy, and our social institutions, working together effectively over the long
term.
- Alan AtKisson, The Compass of Sustainability, 1998

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 4

Date: _____________________
Name: ____________________________ Position: ________________________________
Institution: ________________________________________________________________

CURRICULUM
1. Indicate the extent to which your institution offers courses which address topics related to
sustainability. (Such topics could include globalization and sustainable development;
environmental policy and management; environmental philosophy; nature writing; land
ethics and sustainable agriculture; urban ecology and social justice; population, women and
development; sustainable production and consumption; and many others.)
[Please circle t he appropriate number on this and the following questions]:
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Please list any courses you are aware of in which such topics are taught: ___________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
2. What courses do you regard as essential that are not being taught?
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
3. Indicate the extent to which sustainability is a focus woven into traditional disciplinary
education in science, math, literature, history, the arts, etc.?
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Please comment on how this is done: _______________________________________________


______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
4. Are undergraduates required to take a course on issues related to the environment or
sustainability?
______ No

______ Yes

If yes, please describe:_________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 5

5. The shift to sustainability requires critical thinking about the role of the institution in its
social and ecological systems. Circle which of the following your institution (through
individual, group or departmental efforts) attempts to teach its students:
a - how the campus functions in the ecosystem (e.g. its sources of food, water, energy, as
well as the endpoint of waste and garbage)
b - a sense of place: the natural features, biota, history and culture of the region
c - the institutions contribution to a sustainable economy and sustainable local communities
d - how the institution views and treats its employees (such as staff and faculty involvement
in decision-making, their status and benefits)
e - the basic values and core assumptions that shape the content and methods of the
academic disciplines
Comments: ____________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

RESEARCH AND SCHOLARSHIP


6. a) Estimate the amount of faculty research or scholarship being done in the various
disciplines in the area of sustainability (for example, renewable energy, sustainable building
design, ecological economics, indigenous wisdom and technologies, population and
development, total environmental quality management, etc.).
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Please list any faculty research or scholarly activities you are aware of related to sustainability:
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
b) Estimate the amount of student research or scholarship being done in the various
disciplines in the area of sustainability.
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Please list any student research or scholarly activities you are aware of related to sustainability:
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 6

7. a) What percentage of faculty members teach or do research on sustainability issues?


______ %
b) What percentage of faculty members do you estimate would be interested in teaching and
research on sustainability issues?
______ %
8. Does your institution have established multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary structures (such
as an institute or center) for research, education and policy development on sustainability
issues?
______ No
______ Yes
If yes, please describe:_________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

OPERATIONS
9. The chart below lists some of the operational practices emphasized by institutions moving
toward sustainability. Please complete the chart, adding a check ( ) for prime project areas
and for more information needed, and indicating the extent to which your institution has
implemented these practices using the following scale: 0 dont know; 1 none; 2 a little;
3 quite a bit; 4 a great deal.

Practices
CO2 and air pollution reduction practices
(including alternative fuel use, renewable energy
sources, e mission control devices, etc.)
Indoor air quality standards and practices
Building construction and renovation based on
ecological design principles
Energy conservation practices (in offices,
laboratories, libraries, classrooms and
dormitories)
Local or organic food purchasing program

Purchasing from environmentally and socially


responsible companies (including buying and
using 100% post consumer chlorine free paper)

Rate
from
0 4

Prime
project
area

Need
more
info.

Please comment

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Practices

Rate
from
0 4

Prime
project
area

Need
more
info.

Please comment

Waste reduction practices

Recycling of solid waste (including paper,


plastic, metal, etc.)
Transportation program (including bicycle/
pedestrian friendly systems, car pools, bus pass
programs, electric/natural gas campus vehicles)
Water conservation practices (including efficient
shower heads and irrigation systems)
Integrated Pest Management practices (including
reduction of pesticides to control weeds)
Source reduction of toxic materials and
radioactive waste
Sustainable landscaping (emphasizing native
plants, biodiversity, minimizing lawn, etc.)
Others (please specify):

10. What do you see when you walk around campus that tells you this is an institution committed
to sustainability?
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
11. To what extent are your operations practices integrated into the educational and scholarly
activities of the school?
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 8

Please provide examples of this integration: __________________________________________


______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

FACULTY AND STAFF DEVELOPMENT AND REWARDS


12. a) To what extent does criteria for hiring recognize faculty member contributions to
sustainability (in scholarship, teaching, or campus and community activities)?
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Describe how such considerations are weighed in these decisions: ________________________


______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
b) To what extent do criteria for tenure and promotion recognize faculty member
contributions to sustainability?
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Describe how such considerations are weighed in these decisions: ________________________


______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
13. To what extent do criteria for hiring and promotion recognize staff member contributions to
sustainability (in regular responsibilities and campus and community activities)?
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Describe how such considerations are weighed in these decisions: ________________________


______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
14. To what extent does your college or university provide significant faculty and staff
development opportunities to enhance understanding, teaching and research in sustainability?
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 9

Please describe recent faculty or staff development opportunities in these areas: _____________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

OUTREACH AND SERVICE


15. A sustainable institution supports sustainable community development in its local area and in
the surrounding region through partnerships with primary and secondary schools and
relationships with local governments and businesses. It may also seek international
cooperation in solving global environmental justice and sustainability challenges through
conferences, student/faculty exchanges, etc. To what extent is your institution involved in
sustainable community work or partnerships at local, regional, national or international
levels?
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Please describe: ________________________________________________________________


______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
16. What sustainability related community service, service learning and/or internship programs
exist at your institution?
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

STUDENT OPPORTUNITIES
17. Institutions committed to sustainability provide students with specific opportunities and
settings. Please check ( ) which of the following are present on your campus:
______ Student Environmental Center
______ Ecology House or Sustainable Dormitory
______ Orientation program(s) on sustainability for students

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 10

______ Student Group(s) with an environmental or sustainability focus


______ Other: __________________________________________
18. How does your college or university encourage students to consider sustainability issues
when choosing a career path? [Please check ( ) below where applicable]
______ job fairs and career counseling focused on work in sustainable
enterprises
______ pledge of social and environmental responsibility
______ other: ________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
19. To what extent are student groups across campus directly involved in sustainability
initiatives?
0 (dont know)

1 (none)

2 (a little)

3 (quite a bit)

4 (a great deal)

Describe which groups are most involved and how: ____________________________________


______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

INSTITUTIONAL MISSION, STRUCTURE AND PLANNING


20. To what extent do the formal written statements describing the purposes and objectives of the
units listed below reflect a commitment to sustainability? (Such statements include policy
and planning documents, annual reports, brochures, catalogues, etc.)
[Please rate using the following scale: 0 dont know; 1 none; 2 a little; 3 quite a bit;
4 - a great deal]
______ the institution as a whole
______ your college or division
______ your unit/department
______ other units within the institution (please define: __________________________)
Comments: ____________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 11

______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
21. Institutions committed to sustainability create certain positions and committees, as well as
engage in certain practices, which reinforce this commitment. Please check () which of the
following are present on your campus:
______ Environmental Council or Task Force
______ Environmental Coordinator- ( )student or ( )staff member
______ Dean of Environmental Programs or Director of Sustainability Programs
(a high level officer responsible for these activities)
______ Energy Officer
______ Green Purchasing Coordinator
______ Institutional Declaration of Commitment to Sustainability/Environmental
Responsibility
______ Orientation programs on sustainability for faculty and staff
______ Socially responsible investment practices and policies
______ Regularly conducted environmental audits
______ Other: ______________________________________________________
22. How is a concern for, and commitment to, sustainability given broad visibility on your
campus (for example, with guest speakers, conferences, Earth Day celebrations, etc.)? Please
describe key events that have happened in the past year:
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
23. Please describe the greatest strengths and weaknesses of your institution in educating for
sustainability.
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________

Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire - 12

24. a) What next steps are planned at your college or university to strengthen your
commitment to sustainability (suc h as an EMS, a course requirement on sustainability, or a
new strategic plan reflecting sustainability)?
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
b) What next steps do you feel ought to be taken?
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
Please add any additional comments below: